ANGE POSTECOGLOU applauded his Celtic players for maintaining “an almost impossible standard” as they overcame Hearts 2-0 at Tynecastle on the Sunday afternoon of May 7 to seal a second successive title.

Second-half strikes from Kyogo Furuhashi and his replacement Oh Hyeon-gyu fired the champions to an eleventh title in 11 years with four games still to play.

The silverware focus is now firmly on the club’s eighth treble when they face Inverness Caley Thistle at Hampden on Saturday June 3.

Postecoglou said: “I’m super proud. It feels like it’s been a long year.

“This group of players and the staff have been outstanding in maintaining an almost impossible standard week in, week out. It’s a credit to every one of them.

FOLLOW THE LEADER…Ange Postecoglou shows the way at Tynecastle as the Celtic squad arrive for the title crunch against Hearts on Sunday May 7. Assistant John Kennedy is next in line. 

“We won the title last year and there’s always the danger that maybe guys will get ahead of themselves and become complacent, but from the first moment we got back in pre-season they had the target of being stronger this year and a better side, and they’ve done it every day.

“They’ve been relentless in their approach.

“I’ve had the easy job of watching these guys maintain a ridiculous standard of football and give fantastic commitment to this club.”

The Hoops are now focusing on a record points total of 107, which they will achieve if they win their remaining matches.

Postecoglou added: “The year we’ve had has been remarkable from the football we’ve played, the consistency and the goals we’ve scored.

“I did have a moment after that first game [against Hearts in July 2021]where we had a mountain to climb. But I really had belief that I could do something here in terms of, firstly, building a team that this football club and these fans deserve, and, secondly, being successful.

“It’s a credit to everyone that they’ve jumped on board and we’ve got the job done.

“We’ve got a great opportunity of making this season really special by winning another trophy. We’ve worked hard to get to this point. It’s great to win the two trophies, but we want to win a third.

NUMBER ONE…Kyogo Furuhashi clips a close-range shot past Hearts keeper Zander Clark to put Celtic on course for a second successive championship.

NUMBER TWO…Oh Hyeun-gyu stretches to divert the points clincher beyond the stranded Zander Clark.

“I want it for the players, the staff and for this football club because it’s a reflection of the team they’ve been this year.

“The whole football club have embraced me from day one and I’m really grateful to give something back.

“You get emotional because you understand what’s gone into it.”

Postecoglou also delivered a typical snappy retort to anyone believing his players, with the title already won, may ease up in their next game at Ibrox the following weekend.

He said: “We want to win, mate. I’m going to put teams out to win. That’s it. And the guys respect that, that’s what they want.

“They don’t want to be given anything they want to earn everything they get.

“If they play, they will play because they have earned it. If I make decisions that go away from that there will be other guys asking questions as to why they’re not playing.

“We haven’t been as free-flowing as we were earlier in the year, which is understandable. And it’s felt like a long year because of the Champions League and the World Cup break.

FILM STAR…a beaming Ange Postecoglou after Celtic capital show in Edinburgh.

“But I’m in no doubt that in the next training session they will be out there working as hard as they always have.”

The wheels came off in Govan, though, as the title kings stumbled to a 3-0 loss. The Hoops just didn’t turn up, conceded a sloppy goal in the fifth minutes, missed a marvellous opportunity to equalise two minutes later when Oh clipped a post when he should have scored and then allowed their opponents to score with a header from a straightforward corner-kick delivery from the right after the half-hour mark.

In the 70th minute, Callum McGregor and Cark Starfelt, two players who failed to impose themselves on the contest, got in a fankle and allowed Fashion Sakala to race away, round the exposed Joe Hart and roll in the third.

It was Celtic’s first league defeat since their loss to St Mirren in Paisley in September and the manner of the capitulation clearly frustrated the manager.

Postecoglou said tersely: “It was a disappointing day for us. We never really got going. We had a couple of really good opportunities to get back in the game and we let ourselves down in those areas.

“Then in the second-half, we didn’t really get going and didn’t make much of an impact in the game.

“It’s not the first time that players have been thrown into the derby under me and those are the expectations.

“From our perspective, we had a team out there that we thought could get the job done – and we didn’t.

“We’ll get back to work during the week and make sure we train really well, concentrating on the aspects of the game that are important to us and be ready for another tough game.”

CAPTAIN MARVEL…skipper Callum McGregor leads his triumphant Celtic team-mates after their flag success.

A week later, the manager’s mood wasn’t much better after a dismal 2-2 draw with St Mirren at Parkhead. A sell-out crowd had turned up to celebrate the club’s 53rd championship triumph.

Instead, they saw a fumbling display that required a late equaliser from skipper Callum McGregor to preserve their impressive undefeated home league record of 16 wins and two draws.

Celtic had to come back twice to reply to efforts from Curtis Main with Kyogo Furuhashi also on target and Postecoglou said: “It was a tough game and credit to St Mirren. They worked hard, as we knew they would.

“We weren’t at our best in terms of just working hard enough and putting the things in play that allow us to dominate a game, but the boys found something to fight back, so, at least, we got a share.

“We never really got going and some of that is credit to them, but I just thought we lacked a little bit of urgency and energy, particularly without the ball. We’ve been really good without the ball and we’ve just looked off it a bit in the last couple of weeks.

“When you do that, then it’s hard to take control of the game with the ball, as well, so part of the way we set up is that we need to continually put pressure on the opposition and we didn’t do that.”

OOPS…Scott Bain holds his head in dismay after allowing a shot from Elie Youan to elude him for Hibs’ third goal in Celtic’s 4-2 loss at Easter Road.

It was yet another pale imitation of the Celtic team that had romped to a second successive championship triumph as they flopped 4-2 to Hibs at Easter Road in the midweek tussle after the dull performance against the Paisley club.

The visitors’ hopes weren’t helped by a red card for Daizen Maeda while Scott Bain, standing in for Joe Hart, blundered to gift the Edinburgh side a crucial goal when he allowed a speculative 35-yard drive from Elie Youan to slip through his fingers to gift the hosts a third counter and the lead as the champions dropped their ninth point from a possible 10 in a wobbly run-in to the conclusion of the league campaign.

The 31-year-old netminder, who started the term as No.3 in the pecking order behind Hart and newly-signed Benji Siegrist, was making his first outing in the top side in 18 months.

His return was ruined the moment he allowed Youan’s effort to elude his grasp and he also struggled with the fourth goal when he couldn’t deal with Paul Hanlon’s back-post header.

Postecoglou said: “It is disappointing for him and that is the life of a goalkeeper as he was having a good game up until that point.

“It is just one of those moments and I don’t know when the last time he played.

LONDON CALLING…Ange Postecoglou refused to respond to the Spurs link.

“These guys are out there and in many respects it is not fair on them as I am putting these guys in and that would be okay if there were one or two changes. But I am making five or six changes a game and that is hard on the guys coming in.

“I totally get that. It is unfortunate for him because it was looking like a good night for him.”

Speculation continued to link Postecoglou with the vacant manager’s job at Spurs, looking for a replacement for Antonio Conte who had been fired in April.

The Greek-Australian savoured the final-day 5-0 victory over Aberdeen at Parkhead and refused to discuss anything until after the Scottish Cup Final against Inverness Caley Thistle which was due at Hampden in a week’s time.

A first-half double from Kyogo and two from his second-half substitute Oh plus a header from Carl Starfelt brought down the curtain on the Premiership campaign with the grand finale against the Championship outfit now the sole focus of the Celtic boss.

On the reports of a possible move to London, Postecoglou said: “I’ve been pretty straightforward, there’s nothing cryptic in my messages.

“We’ve got one game to go. I’m not talking about next year until we win next week. That’s our goal, we’ve got to win this Cup.

“I’m not going to pass up the opportunity to do something special, to win a treble. I know people have done it and greater things, but I’m not going to look past that.

“I really want us to finish strong. It’s not going to be an easy game, it’s a Cup Final.

“We’re determined to get it done.”


May 7: Hearts 0 CELTIC 2

Kyogo, Oh

May 13: Rangers 3 CELTIC 0

May 20: CELTIC 2 St Mirren 2

Kyogo, McGregor

May 24: Hibs 4 CELTIC 2

Hatate (pen), Oh

May 27: CELTIC 5 Aberdeen 0

Kyogo (2), Oh (2), Starfelt

* TOMORROW: Don’t miss the twenty-fifth and concluding instalment of CQN’s EXCLUSIVE tribute to Ange Postecoglou.

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